Home Servers, Network Storage and the Case Houseby Loyd Case on December 2, 2009 12:00 AM EST
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Here at the Case House, we’re pretty sophisticated home users, as you might imagine. Even if you ignore me, for a moment, there are my two daughters. Elizabeth (now at UCLA) and Emily (who is a sophomore in high school) are both tech savvy users. Elizabeth is best thought of as a power user, particularly when it comes to cell phones and laptops. She’s also a gifted digital photographer and expert Photoshop user (as it applies to photography.)
Emily is more of a power Internet user and gamer. Facebook is always open on her system, as is iTunes. She users her iPod Classic as much for games as for music, and she’s been known to boot up some pretty serious PC games – Titan Quest, Neverwinter Nights 2 and others.
My wife, on the other hand, will tell you she’s not particularly tech savvy. In one sense, she’s right. I had to set up Harmony One universal remote or she would have never figured out the home theater. She still looks to me for basic hardware support, like setting up her work laptop for dual displays whenever she disconnects and reconnects the laptop. In other ways, though, she’s a sophisticated user of tech, building web pages for her company, initiating and managing teleconferencing sites and designing corporate training curricula.
On top of that, we’re all multi-PC users. Elizabeth has both a full featured laptop and netbook. Emily can be found using the communal living room laptop for homework, sometimes more so than the desktop PC in her room.
As for me – I want access to media, music, benchmarking apps, game patches and other useful software from any location in the house. Keeping my PC on 24/7 really isn’t the right answer: network storage is.
What Do You Mean “Network Storage?”
The situation with network storage isn’t as simple as it should be. There exist a spectrum of choices, depending on what you actually need:
- Small, single drive systems that attach to your network and simply become another hard drive to your PC, albeit slower.
- Network attached storage (NAS) devices that offer additional flexibility, including automated backups, USB printer access through the network and some degree of user account control.
- Media savvy NAS boxes that build on basic NAS capability, then add plugin capability. For example, the ReadyNAS from Netgear offers the ability to run a Slimserver plugin, letting you access digital music stored on the server with Logitech SqueezeBox digital media adapters.
- Interesting convergence devices that are both NAS boxes and media servers, like the Mediagate line of hardware, or Western Digital’s WD TV.
- PC based servers. These can range from consumer oriented Windows Home Servers to full on multicore hardware running Windows Server 2003 or one of the many Linux
- The final solution is cloud storage – something that’s still new to a lot of home users, and exists in multiple implementations and at varying cost structures.
In an ideal world, you’d assess your needs and pick the network storage technology that suits your needs. In the Case House, most of our network storage needs have been ably handled by one of the original ReadyNAS 600 systems, built and sold by Infrant prior to its acquisition by Netgear. The system originally shipped with 1TB of storage (four 250GB drives), set up in RAID 5 mode.
After several years, the oddball paddlewheel cooling fan began to die, so I replaced both the fan and PSU, while simultaneously upgrading the hard drives to four 500GB drives (2TB total, about 1.6TB usable in RAID 5.) The ReadyNAS has since been working fine, humming quietly in the basement lab storage area, giving me no problems and doing its job.
So naturally, I wanted something different.